What are the determinants of post-traumatic stress disorder: age, gender, ethnicity or other? Evidence from 2008 Wenchuan earthquake

P Kun, X Tong, Y Liu, X Pei, H Luo
Public Health 2013, 127 (7): 644-52

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and assess determinants related to PTSD symptoms among adult earthquake survivors after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China.

STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional multicluster sample surveys with data collected from four counties.

METHODS: Surveys were conducted separately in four counties in Sichuan Province, with a total of 2004 respondents. Beichuan County and Dujiangyan City were damaged more severely than Yaan County and Langzhong County during the earthquake. In total, 1890 households were represented, with a mean of 2.2 respondents per household. Data were collected using structured interviews, and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition criteria were used to diagnose PTSD.

RESULTS: The prevalence rates of suspected PTSD were 47.3% (n = 436) in heavily damaged areas and 10.4% (n = 93) in moderately damaged areas. The prevalence rates of PTSD symptoms among elderly, middle aged and young adults were 55.8%, 50.2% and 28.6% (P = 0.001), respectively, in heavily damaged areas. Older age, female gender, unmarried/divorced/widowed, ethnic minority, death of family member, no household income and damaged household were independent risk factors for PTSD symptoms in heavily damaged areas.

CONCLUSION: Interventions designed to reduce PTSD among populations affected by the 2008 earthquake should focus on people without household incomes, those with damaged households and those who experienced the death of a family member. Effective, sustainable and culturally sensitive psychosocial interventions and mental health services are required, and attention should be directed to survivors who experienced the death of a family member, women and older adults following the devastating natural disaster. Governments should support income-generating activities and improve living conditions. Trained field personnel can assist with PTSD assessments and referrals, and existing rural healthcare services can be used to provide treatment for common psychiatric disorders.

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